Sunday, September 23, 2018

Regular reseeding boosts grassland resilience

September 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

Livestock producers are being encouraged to improving the resilience of grassland production following a challenging spring  and summer.

“In East Anglia and surrounding areas, the recent rain has meant grass is finally growing again but there is a lot of catching up to do in the next few weeks if we’re going to get anything like what we need,” says Jim Juby of Suffolk-based Horizon Seeds.

“It’s been a tough year for virtually everybody in UK agriculture, but dairy and beef farmers have probably struggled the most with a difficult silaging period, very limited grazing during the summer and now low reserves of forage for the winter.”

The difficulties of 2018 have once again highlighted the need for greater resilience in forage production systems, believes Mr Juby. Much of this revolves around correct fertiliser use, silage cut management and good clamp practices.

But quality of grass leys is key. “It’s not just a question of ensuring you have the right constituent varieties in your swards, it’s about recognising when is the right time to reseed to get the most out of the resources you have,” says Mr Juby.

Keep it simple

“It’s easy to over-complicate things but the decision to reseed revolves largely around how much milk you’re likely to get from sticking with your original ley and then comparing it to how much you will get from the new grass if you reseed.”

Reseeding typically costs £500/ha. To pay for itself, a short-term ley of two years must produce at least an extra 1000 litres/ha each year at an average milk price of 28p/litre. A long-term ley must produce an extra 340 litres/ha per year over a six year period.

Energy content is the main determinant of whether this will be achieved with digestibility also a crucial consideration. D-value is a measure of the digestibility of organic matter and is directly correlated with Metabolisable Energy (ME).

“Digestibility is important as energy can be inaccessible to the rumen bacteria if material is too fibrous. As well as making energy more available, high D-values encourage increased dry matter intakes which also maximises production.”

Small differences in D-value between grass varieties and mixtures can lead to significant differences in both energy content and intakes, Jim Juby points out. An improvement in D-value of one unit, for example, can increase milk output by around 5%.

Furthermore, a wide difference in heading dates of grass varieties within mixtures can make optimum cutting time decisions difficult in trying to optimise D-value. Mixes that contain a narrow range of heading dates are therefore preferable when considering a cutting regime.

Another key influence on overall energy levels is Water Soluble Carbohydrate (WSC). “WSC is a readily available energy source that also has an effect on dry matter intakes due to improved palatability whilst allowing better utilisation of crude protein in the grass.

“As well as being important in silage making and the rapid production of lactic acid, high WSC levels also appear to help swards have greater stock-carrying capacity and reduced nitrogen excretions are also evident.”

A good starting point is to make sure all the varieties in a mix are in the Recommended List, says Mr Juby. A lot of advances have been made in recent years especially in critical areas such as performance consistency and response to nitrogen inputs.

“Our best selling short-term ley Horizon ‘Clampfiller’ produces 20.41t DM/ha, according to data from the 2018 NIAB RL, and our longer-term ‘Persistant Cut’ is up at 132,574 Mj/ha from the first and second cut data which at 28p/litre would produce approximately £7000 of milk.”

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